First Liberty Attorney Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee

May 19, 2023
First Liberty in Congress | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

First Liberty’s Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee this week.

He was an expert witness at a hearing held by the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government. Dys brought attention to the alarming rise in violence against faith-based pregnancy resource centers. Over the past year, hundreds of these facilities have been attacked, defaced, vandalized, paint-bombed and had windows broken. Many of their staff and volunteers have been doxxed, and repeatedly threatened in person, in the mail and online.

First Liberty represents Heartbeat of Miami, a ministry providing services and support to women and couples facing unplanned pregnancies in Hialeah, Florida. Their facility was vandalized multiple times. These acts are punishable under federal law, and our legal team filed a lawsuit seeking to hold accountable the vandals who defaced and spray-painted their property.

The hearing focused on the enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), a federal law that promises to ensure access to the nation’s reproductive health facilities and accountability to those who would intimidate, injure or interfere with access to those facilities. President Clinton signed it into law in 1994 regarding abortion clinics. But the Act’s language includes “reproductive health services” and, in another provision of the FACE Act, provides churches with similar protections.

Though federal law clearly protects these centers, Dys explained that “few pro-life reproductive health facilities are even aware that the FACE Act protects their interests.” He also said there’s a “selective, one-sided application of the FACE Act” and a “lack of action toward those deploying violence to express their political opposition to pro-life reproductive health centers.”

Watch Jeremy’s testimony below:

Motivated by their religious beliefs, pregnancy resource centers do tremendous work in their communities. They care for parents by distributing free diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, blankets and clothing. Many offer programs that help equip new parents facing the important job of raising children. Others offer free screenings for STDs, pregnancy tests, medical consultations and professional counseling.

No organization in America should be attacked because of its religious beliefs about life. Violence against faith-based groups that care for the most vulnerable is appalling. Everyone who cherishes freedom and civility should reject such attacks.

Dys made clear to the subcommittee:

“Those who target life-affirming reproductive health facilities should face the legal penalties Congress established for their crimes. No one should suffer violence for simply providing faith-based counseling and baby supplies to women and their babies. Violence is never a lawful response to disagreement.”

Terrorizing religious charities betrays our founding principles. America’s promise of religious freedom gives people of all faiths the right to peacefully live out their beliefs. First Liberty will continue defending religious groups, houses of worship and all Americans so they can practice their faith without fear of having their property burned, defaced or vandalized.

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